The competition between DirecTV and DISH Network is heating up as the Superbowl approaches. Competition has been so fierce that the story has even been covered by major news sources like ABC News and the Boston Herald.
DISH and DirecTV have both been splattering the airwaves with messages about how each service is better than the other. While DirecTV has been taking the high road, DISH has been taking its competitor head on, with claims that its service is cheaper because DISH does not pay celebrities for endorsements the way DirecTV does.
So who is really the cheapest satellite provider? Is DISH feeding you a line? Comparatively, DISH isn’t spending that much less on advertising, according to the MediaPost News. DISH Network spent $350 million on advertising from January to November 2009 while DirecTV spent $375 million. Still, that is $25 million more. Not exactly chump change. But for consumers, the real difference lies in programming and the network you prefer will depend on which channels you can or cannot live without.
Both networks provide essentially the same types of programming with a few exceptions. For example, DirecTV has a broader range of social demographic programming, carrying Logo and Jewish Life Television, channels not carried by DISH. DirecTV also offers some free concerts on its 101 channel, while not a deal breaker, certainly a nice bonus. Other notable advantages on DirecTV include Fit TV, PBS Kids Sprout, MLB Network and the Sundance Channel.
While it would seem that DISH really should carry channels like Sprout, MLB Network and Sundance, the network also has some channels DirecTV does not. These include 5 Star Max and Action Max, (Cinemax channels), the Documentary Channel, Showtime Beyond, Starz Cinema, and several university learning channels not carried by DirecTV. DISH also has a much broader range of music channels.
When it comes to pricing, DirecTV’s introductory pricing plans are much more aggressive, offering huge discounts for the first year of programming. But once those discounts run out, DISH shines.
DirecTV offers four programming packages, listed here from lowest price to highest:
- Family™: $29.99 per month, no discount offered
- Choice™: $55.99 regular, $29.99 per month for the first year
- Choice Extra™: $60.99 regular, $34.99 per month for the first year
- Premier™: $109.99 regular, $83.99 per month for the first year.
When compared with DISH packages, some of the plans are similar, but DISH offers more options for cheaper packages.
DISH sells six separate packages:
- Family: $24.99 per month, no discount offered
- America’s Top 120: $39.99 regular, $24.99 per month for the first year
- America’s Top 120 Plus: $44.99 regular, $29.99 per month for the first year.
- America’s Top 200: $52.99 regular, $37.99 per month for the first year
- America’s Top 250: $62.99 regular, $47.99 per month for the first year
- America’s “Everything” Pak: $99.99 regular, $84.99 per month for the first year
With respect to Premium programming, movie channel packages are roughly the same price, working out to approximately $50 when you buy five premiums. DirecTV offers more choices when it comes to premium packages, offering sports, children, game and HD packages not offered by DISH. If you are someone who has trouble with temptation, you may be better off with the simpler offerings of DISH.
The Family Plans
When you break down each of these packages by price versus content, it’s going to be a personal call. On the Family package, DISH has the advantage with important channels like ABC Family, Biography Channel, CBS College Sports, Fox News, Fuse, Kids & Teens Network, The Outdoor Channel, Reelz, The Science Channel and TV Land. DirecTV has Disney East, West and XD, Fit TV, HGTV, National Geographic and PBS Kids Sprout. When you look at the kids channels, remember that ABC and Disney are both owned by the same company. Other than these main differences, both packages are the same and DISH offers it for $5 less.
The Bigger Picture
Once you begin looking at the bigger packages, it becomes harder to compare apples to apples. DISH’s two intermediate plans offer many of the channels included in DirecTV’s 150+ channel Choice™ package at a lower price. DISH’s next step up is a 200-channel package that is better compared with DTV’s Choice Extra™ package. DirecTV’s largest package is more comparable to DISH’s 250-channel package, and DISH offers the largest package with 295+ channels in its “Everything” package.
If you are in it for the long haul, DISH does look like it saves you money over DirecTV, even if it is only because they offer a wider arrange of cheaper packages. In the short term, the discounts offered by DirecTV for the first 12 months offer a decided advantage over DISH. In the end, DISH Network’s most expensive package is cheaper than DirecTV’s largest offering, and DISH offers more channels. But it still boils down to whether you are willing to live without certain channels to save $5 or $10 dollars a month.